THE TRIBE

A Brief Description of the Transition Between the Ancestral and the Contemporary Mind

Long, long ago we belonged to the tribe. The men hunted, ranging far, and the women, the children, and the uninitiated young men remained close to our settlements, seldom venturing very far unless circumstances required. Our numbers were few.

Times were hard. It was cold most of the time. Hunger and death were nearby, but life was good because we knew the Air connected us to All.

Stories were told of times past when our numbers exceeded anyone’s ability to count. It was said that living then was like living in a paradise. But, when the cold came so quickly, without warning, there was great suffering and widespread starvation. Battles for space, for food, for fuel, for women, were fought for many, many moons. The land changed then, and the great waters fell away. Our numbers became very small and sickness was everywhere.

Gradually, things got better.

Many times people said, "Look how warm it is getting, we must move from the seashore before the water rises." Many times the cold came back again and the water did not rise.

Finally, the warmth persisted and the waters rose. As our coastal lands were flooded, our tribe had to move inland. We had to fight for space when an inland clan claimed that all the land was theirs, but we survived. It was fun to fight so hard again. Many went to rejoin their ancestors.

The tribal elders said, "Remember, it WILL get cold again! Times will be very hard when the cold comes back and our tribe shall perish unless we are able to work together. For cooperative action we must remember that the Air connects all of us with the Great Spirit."

Rituals were established to help us remember. Shamans were trained to remain attentive to the history of the tribe, which was repeated in song, in story, and in dance. Some shamans promised to try to return from the spirit world to warn of the return of the cold.

Many moons passed and the warmth remained. New tools appeared. The people flourished in numbers. The tribal stories were written down and fewer shamans were trained. Some clans began to say that the stories, the songs, and the dances were not true any more, that the world had changed. Some claimed that the Great Spirit, who they now called God, belonged only to their clan.

Finally, the days came when the shamans, whenever they spoke, were reviled. One very powerful shaman, who taught a message of love, cooperation, connection, and remembering, was able to remind many people of the old days and how the Air connected everyone with God. Although he was killed, many chose to follow his teachings. Among his followers, there were arguments about whether or not a person could contact God directly or only through the mediation of certain men who claimed a special relationship with God.

And the rest is History….

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Note added (10/12/99) - Any such story must be, of course, an example of what Owen Barfield called a "logomorphism," a projection of the contemporary mind onto human beings of the past, beings for whom, for the greater part of the duration of the story, the terms, 'future', 'nature,' 'history,' 'subject,' or 'object,' neither existed nor had any meaning. So far as we are aware, ice age beings, for whom every inspiration was an inspiration - a self-less, mimetic emotional resonance with every event, situation or process - were hardly aware of a self as we understand the term. I have chosen to place the story in the levant in the belief that the "leap into being" (Voeglin) amongst the Israelites was an event critical to the development of the individuated Western psyche. I believe that the leaps into being that occurred all around the world shortly before 500 BCE were all caused by the same unknown factor. The exact mode of embodied human consciousness that such a leap would produce in any given individual would be strongly influenced by the particular culture in which the participent was embedded. This goes without saying. In any case, given that the leaps into being have been so important in the history of embodied human consciousness, I thought it would be interesting to imagine one from the other side, so to speak, and from a non-theistic point of view. The story's value is meant to be heuristic rather than factual. In constructing it, I have attempted, in a very general way, to be consistent with information from the following sources.

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, New York: Vintage Books, 1996, 326 pgs.

Abraham, Ralph. Chaos, Gaia, Eros: A Chaos Pioneer Uncovers the Three Great Streams of History, San Francisco: Harper, 1994, 263 pgs.

Berger, Peter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1967, 229 pgs.

Broecker, Wallace. Will our ride into the greenhouse future be a smooth one? GSA Today 7: 1 – 7, 1997.

Calvin, William H. http://www.williamcalvin.com/climate/

Eliade, Mircea. The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History, trans. By W.R. Trask, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1954, 195 pgs.

Margolis, Joseph. Historied Thought, Constructed World: A Conceptual Primer for the Turn of the Millennium, Berkley: University of California Press, 1995, 377 pgs.

Voegelin, Eric. Order and History. Vol. I. Israel and Revelation, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1956/1994, 533 pgs.